This weekend saw the penultimate CES session for the year. One of the more sensible things I decided upon when I set up my CES was to limit the number of nets to what I thought I would be able to manage alone when I am older and even more decrepit, and cannot necessarily rely on my team to turn up to the session for whatever reason. Yesterday, nearly all of those things came to pass, with one crying off on the morning with a cold and Steph turning up after I had set the nets (okay, that was by arrangement, maternal duties take precedence).
The weather was actually (relatively) cold, with very light occasional showers for the first two hours. This meant there was very little insect activity, and the initial rounds only produced a couple of birds at a time. As the weather warmed up, so the catches improved.
We knew that the Wildlife Trust were trialling a “wild camping” weekend at Lower Moor Farm and that we would have some visitors. Having woken a few of them between 4:30 and 5:30 when banging in pegs and making holes for the poles, there were visitors from minute one. These were mainly Trust employees, and it was really good to give them the chance to get close to some of the birds that frequent their northern flagship reserve.
What we didn’t expect was 20+ photographers to turn up at 10:30. Possibly worse: they were a self-styled group of “Instagrammers”. There are clear rules laid down by the BTO for using social media as, great tool though it is, it is probably better at spreading negative messages than positive ones. As there was no point in trying to stop them taking photographs, and even less chance of stopping them from posting them on Instagram, I asked them to avoid posting shots that included Steph’s or my face (no hardship in cropping out my ugly mug). Also, I asked them not to publish any photos of the birds in positions that might look as though they were uncomfortable, as those present would be aware that the birds were fine, whereas others looking at the photos might not. It is also true that there is a significant clique on the internet who use poor ringing photographs to spread disinformation about the practice (or even just photos of ringers smiling whilst holding birds, as though enjoyment somehow invalidates the value of ringing. Something has to compensate for the early starts and the ever increasing cost.).
The group all agreed and, to be fair, were very interested in what was going on and delighted to see some species that they had not seen up close before. You know a session has gone reasonably well when people make a point of coming up to you some time afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it and how much they had learnt.
Steph and I also enjoyed it, we caught three Sedge Warblers in the session. We have never previously caught more than two in one session.
(Photo courtesy of Steph.)
The list for the day was: Blue Tit 7(3); Long-tailed Tit 3(1); Wren (1); Dunnock 1; Robin 3; Blackbird 1; Reed Warbler 1; Sedge Warbler 3; Blackcap 15(1); Garden Warbler 9; Whitethroat 2; Lesser Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 6(2); Willow Warbler 3; Bullfinch 1. Totals: 56 birds ringed from 14 species; 8 birds recaptured from 5 species, making 64 birds processed from 15 species. 58 of the birds caught were definitely fledged this year, 2 of the Long-tailed Tits probably were, but it is difficult to be certain about that at this time of year. Both adults and fledglings moult into full adult plumage by the autumn. I made the assessment on the colouration of the eye-ring (generally, red in juveniles, orange in adults) but have been circumspect in entering the details into the national database.
Garden Warbler numbers continue to surprise, with our best ever Quarter 3 so far, with a total of 31 ringed and 3 recaptured. The overall catch was slightly down on the equivalent session last year, which had a total of 72 birds from the same number of species: the difference being fewer recaptured birds (16 from 8 species, opposed to this year’s 8 from 5) but we ringed 2 more birds this year. There were key differences in the composition of the catch: Blue Tit and Chiffchaff numbers were less than half of last year’s session; whereas, unsurprisingly given what I stated above, Garden Warbler numbers are significantly improved (9 to 1) and we had no Sedge Warblers at this time in 2017.
Steph and I closed the nets and packed up at 11:30 after a thoroughly satisfying session.